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Social Darwinism and the 1%

athena1's picture

The 1% really does just win because they're "better".
Better at tricking the rest of us, more than anything.

They really don't have normal morals, but we assume they must, because they fake it, and people tend to assume other people think like them. Whatever is going on in the heads of these sociopaths would appear as a really alien landscape if we could really peak inside.

Check out this fascinating article:

http://dornsife.usc.edu/tools/mytools/Pe...

Popularity is not viewed as
an indicator of liking by peers but rather is seen as a reputational
construct involving power and status in the group (Lease,
Kennedy, & Axelrod, 2002; Xie, Cairns, & Cairns, 1999). Conceptualized
in this manner, popularity has only recently become
the subject of significant empirical attention in the developmental
psychology literature. Investigators have concluded that popularity
is linked to a more mixed pattern of attributes than is social
acceptance (LaFontana & Cillessen, 1998). Research conducted
across age groups has shown that popularity is associated with
prosocial behaviors, on the one hand, and aggressive or dominating
behaviors, on the other hand (
Butcher, 1986; Luthar & Mc-
Mahon, 1996; Parkhurst & Hopmeyer, 1998).

Those kids are probably more or less normal people (or maybe not?) but imagine a smart sociopath. They're going to fake it. And because they literally have no morals (unless one considers greed a virtue), they win. They will do literally ANYTHING to "win".

We moral dupes CAN outsmart them though. They don't actually have the highest IQs. The money 1%ers are just the smartest 1% among the sociopathic supgroup of humans.

So, all the 99% needs is to stop being so damn naive. It is absolutely safe to assume the financial 1% is almost never operating in good faith. And they really do hate us, because the sociopaths assume everyone else is a sociopath, too, but we're just losers at the game of life and faking this whole morality thing.

Orwell wasn't alive to see neoliberalism, but I like to think he'd be in here chatting with us if still alive. Maybe he'd note that doublethink is the result of the sociopath 1%'s view of "morality" (aka, greed is good, etc.) Hell, it even explains the bizarre behavior of the ECB. If human suffering is good, then sure, expanding the homeless population is a good way to grow the economy. (They really don't have the highest IQs, remember.) I really think this is what's up with the Pod People everywhere (poditicians, as I like to refer to them.)

Thoughts?

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Submitted by YesMaybe on

I don't know of evidence out there that rich people have a different morals or have no morals. Of course, many of them behave immorally. But that isn't unique to them, and if there is a different in degree I would guess it's just that, not a qualitative difference. If I'm wrong and there is evidence of a huge difference, I'd like to see it.

Greed (often referred to by the more polite term 'ambition') is hardly restricted to the 1%. Granted, they often have an attitude of superiority and they live in their own bubbles. But that's not unique to them either: just look at the attitude of many middle-class liberals towards those they consider white trash.

As far as their business practices, I think you're overrating the difference again. Granted the folks on Wall St. shamelessly rip off their customers and everyone else. But so does your average used car salesman, right? And I remember a documentary called Salesman about door-to-door bible salesmen. What they were doing was trying to convince people who couldn't afford it (and who already had a perfectly good bible) to buy an expensive bible from them. And these people weren't sociopaths by any means. Same goes for your average Wall St. type: they're just operating according to standard industry practices. Sure, their standard business practices include dishonesty, but that is also the case in many industries and many pay-levels.

P.S.From the book Snakes in Suits:

In our original research working with almost 200 high-potential
executives, we found about 3.5 percent who fit the profile of the psy-
chopath as measured on the PCL: SV (pages 26–28). While this may
not seem like a large percentage, it is considerably higher than that
found in the general population (1 percent), and perhaps more than
most businesses would want to have on their payrolls, especially as
these individuals were on the road to becoming leaders in their or-
ganizations.

So some psychopaths may naturally fit in among the 1% (though others of course end up in prison and yet others in ordinary walks of line). But they still make up a small percentage (under 5%) of these people. As for sociopathy, I don't know if it has a proper definition, but I think a similar thing would be found: there might be a higher percentage among the 1%, but just a difference of degree.

athena1's picture
Submitted by athena1 on

That would be an example of a sociopath with a lower IQ. Below that you probably see the violent robbers.

In our original research working with almost 200 high-potential
executives,

These would be aspiring 1%ers. Who knows how clever they really are. The question is: what happens to the smartest sociopaths? Are they the Koch brothers? Or highly paid strategists at a think tank working to promote the Iron Heel? Where do the super smart people with no morals end up in life? If life hands them a shitty hand, do they volunteer their time to the oligarchy trolling the internet?

BTW, I don't think 100% of the oligarch class are evil. Just, a LOT.

Also, this is an interesting book:

http://www.amazon.com/Sociopath-Next-Doo...

from the first review:

One other MUST-READ section of the book is the discussion on how good people allow sociopaths to rise to positions of authority and to do bad things. To understand this, Stout explains the Milgram experiment which began in 1961 - 62. I won't describe the experiment here, but if you're not familiar with it, I strongly encourage you to google "Milgram experiment" and read about it. As a psychology major in the 1980s, I watched footage of this experiment, which was so powerful, I remember it like it was yesterday. Stout's discussion of the Milgram experiment will show you how the public can all too easily be swayed by people in authority such as charismatic leaders and demagogues. Reading this discussion will help you understand why Rule #4, "Question Authority" is not just an old hippy slogan, but crucial.

ETA:
Oh, I know what a lot of the smartest ones do: they conjure up voodoo economics! They're mathematical con artists masquerading as economists. How much money did Friedman make?

Submitted by YesMaybe on

I think if being a used car salesmen means a person is a sociopath then the term is either not being used appropriately or is simply not useful. Ditto for the bible salesmen? They were not sociopaths or con men, just salesmen. For example, do you think they are necessarily dishonest with their friends and families? Do you think they are more likely to commit adultery than people in other professions? etc. I don't. I mean, besides having a job where it's standard to lie, what makes you think the car salesman must be a sociopath? I am sure that would not pass any kind of clinical muster.

As far as Milgram's experiment, I haven't read that book, but I've read about it from other sources. And I never interpreted it as being about sociopaths. Rather it was about (a) moral deference to authority (the guy in the lab-suit was not supposed to be a sociopath: he was not played as charming or convincing--if anything it was quite the opposite, as just a boring scientist type), and (b) how what one does differs from what one thinks one would do (if you describe the experiment to people, the percentage of folks who say they'd go along is tiny compared to the percentage of ones who actually do).

And the same goes for the 1%. I think you are simply overestimating the different in morality between them and everyone else (also in IQ, actually, but that's a secondary point). If anything, Milgram's experiment shows that you don't have to be especially immoral to go along with bad practices, undermining the idea that the 1% are special in their moral make-up. It also shows (when the verbal surveys are included) that we might well have acted the way the 1% do if we were in their positions, even though we believe we wouldn't have. There but for the grace of God...

All this is absolutely not to justify or excuse the 1%'s practices. Rather, I think the institutional and cultural factors are much more significant in what they do than any personal ones. (And by cultural factors I mean our whole culture, not just the 1%'s.)

athena1's picture
Submitted by athena1 on

If you're a career con artist "high pressure sales tactic" car salesman, you're probably a sociopath. Not all of them are like that, though. There are cool car salesmen.

I took a job once in telemarketing that over time I discovered was a Italian mafia scam. I kept the job for a while but eventually had to quit. And yes, I agree with the last few episodes of the Sopranoes that these guys actually are sociopaths. And come to think of it, all the people who worked there and "knew" and were fine with it were exceedingly creepy. These would be low-IQ sociopaths, I guess. They weren't very good at hiding their wrongness. (One was constantly trying to convince me to become a stripper. Nothing odd about THAT!)

And the same goes for the 1%. I think you are simply overestimating the different in morality between them and everyone else (also in IQ, actually, but that's a secondary point). If anything, Milgram's experiment shows that you don't have to be especially immoral to go along with bad practices, undermining the idea that the 1% are special in their moral make-up

I think you're radically misunderstanding my points, and you misread the point in the review about the Milgram experiments.

Read again:

One other MUST-READ section of the book is the discussion on how good people allow sociopaths to rise to positions of authority and to do bad things

Also, have you read the free eBook "the authoritarians"?

Submitted by YesMaybe on

No, I don't think I'm misunderstanding here. So let me be explicit. I would like you to:

(a) Define what you mean by 'sociopath.'
(b) Point to any evidence regarding sociopathy among the 1%, and compared to the general population. You were basically saying the 1% are all sociopaths (I quote what you wrote below, to show which part I meant), and I want to know the basis for that.

You wrote:

The 1% really does just win because they're "better".
Better at tricking the rest of us, more than anything. They really don't have normal morals, but we assume they must, because they fake it, and people tend to assume other people think like them. Whatever is going on in the heads of these sociopaths would appear as a really alien landscape if we could really peak inside.

And I started reading the Authoritarians, but didn't get through it.

Submitted by YesMaybe on

Please point to your evidence that the 1% folks "literally have no morals (unless one considers greed a virtue)."

Are you familiar with the situationalist literature in social psychology? Morality is generally not an all-around thing you either have or don't have (though there can be such cases, of course). Even narrower moral traits such as honesty. A person might be very honest in some domains of their lives and dishonest in others. What reason is there to think that the 1% "literally have no morals"? Bad business practices in no way justify such a conclusion.

Clonal Antibody's picture
Submitted by Clonal Antibody on

on the subject is Political Ponerology

Another one is Snakes in Suits

From the first

PSYCHOPATHY: THE CAUSE OF EVIL

Inherited and acquired psychological disorders and ignorance of their existence and nature are the primal causes of evil. The magic number of 6% seems to represent the number of humans who either carry the genes responsible for biological evil or who acquire such disorders in the course of their lifetime. This small percent is responsible for the vast majority of human misery and crime, and for infecting others with their flawed view of the world.

The scope of evil does not respect any boundaries of race, doctrine, or ideology. All races carry the genes, and all schools of thought are susceptible to their influence. These pathological factors that influence behaviour form a complex web. It is only in such a web that the "environmental evil" wherein circumstances can influence a normal person to commit harmful acts can be understood.

Submitted by YesMaybe on

And there was nothing in there that would suggest the 1% are all psychopaths or even sociopaths. As I noted in a previous comment, the rate of psychopathy they found among the executives they examined was around 3%--higher than the general population, but still tiny. Granted, the effects psychopaths have on organizations and the people in them is huge. But in no way does this suggest a split between the 1% and 99% along the lines of "the 1% are evil sociopaths, the 99% mostly good (but with some 'low IQ sociopaths' too)", which is what the original post was saying.

Submitted by jawbone on

altruism, patriotism, working for the good of the greatest number of fellow citizens was much more effective at getting people to do things they thought were morally wrong, deeply wrong. It worked far better than authoritatian orders or threats.

In the whole set of experiements, people were most persuaded to do evil by being brainwashed into thinking what they were doing was for the Greater Good.

Which is what making war is based on, right?

I have to search for the discussion of this which I heard on WNYC and will post the link, but it was highly revelatory about how people can be talked into doing what they feel is very wrong, and then doing the wrong with energy and full cooperation. All based on being persuaded the wrong was actually a good thing for the entire group or nation.

If anyone has that link ready to post, please do so. It was a segment of Radio Lab, iirc, which covered the research of a British investigator into the Milgram experiments.

athena1's picture
Submitted by athena1 on

Sociopath
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth...

I'd say the obsession with enlightened self-interest and considering greed a virtue and altruism evil is evidence.
Also, let me go find a quote from the authoritarians about these libertarian leader types.

athena1's picture
Submitted by athena1 on

http://members.shaw.ca/jeanaltemeyer/drb...

Here are the items from another measure
I’ve concocted, called the Exploitive Manipulative Amoral Dishonesty (“Exploitive-
MAD”) scale. Again, high social dominators’ responses, compared with others, really
open your eyes.

The Exploitive Manipulative Amoral Dishonesty Scale
You know that most people are out to “screw” you, so you have to get them first when you get the
chance. (Agree)
All in all, it is better to be humble and honest than important and dishonest. (Disagree)
There is really no such thing as “right” and “wrong.” It all boils down to what you can get away
with. (Agree)
Do unto others as you would have them do unto you, and never do anything unfair to someone
else. (Disagree)
One of the most useful skills a person should develop is how to look someone straight in the eye
and lie convincingly. (Agree)
It gains a person nothing if he uses deceit and treachery to get power and riches. (Disagree)
Basically, people are objects to be quietly and coolly manipulated for your own benefit. (Agree)
Deceit and cheating are justified when they get you what you really want. (Agree)
167
One should give others the benefit of the doubt. Most people are trustworthy if you have faith in
them. (Disagree)
The best skill one can have is knowing the “right move at the right time”: when to “soft-sell”
someone, when to be tough, when to flatter, when to threaten, when to bribe, etc. (Agree)
Honesty is the best policy in all cases. (Disagree)
The best reason for belonging to a church is to project a good image and have contact with some
of the important people in your community. (Agree)
No one should do evil acts, even when they can “get away with them” and make lots of money.
(Disagree)
There’s a sucker born every minute, and smart people learn how to take advantage of them. (Agree)
The end does NOT justify the means. If you can only get something by unfairness, lying, or hurting
others, then give up trying. (Disagree)
Our lives should be governed by high ethical principles and religious morals, not by power and
greed. (Disagree)
It is more important to create a good image of yourself in the minds of others than to actually be
the person others think you are. (Agree)
There’s no excuse for lying to someone else. (Disagree)
One of the best ways to handle people is to tell them what they want to hear. (Agree)
The truly smart person knows that honesty is the best policy, not manipulation and deceit. (Disagree)

You almost have to be ruthless like this to succeed on Wall Street or make a Koch industries type business. The "strong" really do out-compete the "weak" in unregulated capitalism.

Take a peek into the world these "winners" are actively designing:

http://www.theglobalist.com/StoryId.aspx...

Submitted by YesMaybe on

Nor is it comparing the 1% to everyone else. What evidence do you have that the 1% are all folks such as these?

And you wrote "I'd say the obsession with enlightened self-interest and considering greed a virtue and altruism evil is evidence." Besides that this would be very flimsy evidence for establishing sociopathy according to that definition, what evidence is there that the 1% all think altruism is evil? That is a preposterous claim to make. I'm sure some of them are Ayn Rand-reading types who do, but I'm just as sure that many of them take the opposite view and engage in quite a lot of philanthropy.

Anyway, I give up: you seem to have made up your mind that the 1% are sociopaths and that's all there is to it. I think this is both untrue and unproductive. But I'm throwing in the hat towel.

P.S. I was into Ayn Rand when I was a teenager, and I was definitely not a sociopath.

athena1's picture
Submitted by athena1 on

This link:

The best skill one can have is knowing the “right move at the right time”: when to “soft-sell”
someone, when to be tough, when to flatter, when to threaten, when to bribe, etc.

Mixed with this:

Research conducted
across age groups has shown that popularity is associated with
prosocial behaviors, on the one hand, and aggressive or dominating
behaviors, on the other hand (Butcher, 1986; Luthar & Mc-
Mahon, 1996; Parkhurst & Hopmeyer, 1998).

Is fascinating to me.

Submitted by jawbone on

was studied by, iirc, a British researcher. One thing found was that males who won actually had changes to their brains and their bodies produced higher amounts of testosterone (same effect in women, also, but lesser amounts of testosterone). The winning could be a physical feat (those initially studied were athletes, iirc), a new contract, a chess game, a savvy market trade, a political win,accumlating great wealth.

These men began to view themselves as "greater beings" than other men, other people. They believed they were absolutely "better" than the great masses of people, those who could not match their "wins." Winning women, on the other hand, tended to think of others, in a more communitarian way, and wanted to use their power, sense of strength, to make life better for everyone.

There is also an increased sex drive, which may be evolutionary in that the winning male gets to, and feels he must, spread his winning sperm.

Made me think of Romney initally, but this applies to any so-called "winner," and I'm sure it applies to politicians such as Obama.

Thinking of Obama and other politicians, I think those with strong empathy for others may come out as more aware of we lesser people and more caring about our well being. Those with less innate empathy go down the path of, well, regarding the lessers as less capable, less intelligent, less worthy. Especially the last.

Clinton was always noted as having empathy; Obama, not so much. Obama cares about his close family, his benefactors, himself -- not sure of the order. Clinton, I believe, had other people, the great mass of them, much higher on his list of those he cared about. And he could see that it was more the raw economics, it was a sense of security and well being which led to happiness among most people. Clinton's caring was not a put on, not a con. Obama's??

Again, I have to search for this program -- I'm absolutely sure I heard it on WNYC but no recollection of the program. Might have been a replay late at night...but it was fascinating.

Again, any input from those with better memories would be welcomed!

Also, there's another study out there which shows the extremely wealthy do think differently than the rest of the ppopulation. Ah, just need time to search now.

Submitted by jawbone on

He found "success changes the chemistry of the brain, making you more focused, smarter, more confident, and more aggressive." He wrote about his findings in The Winner Effect: The Neuroscience of Success and Failure and appeared on The Leonard Lopate Show on 10/16/12 to discuss it and his study. Audio available at the link; no transcript.

The comments are interesting and worth reading as well. There are several by a commenter, using "Hugh Sansom" as his nym, which are very good.

Robertson, after making his initial findings about athletes, expanded his study to cover highly successful men in other fields and then successful women.

What strikes me is that the effect of success and concomitant wealth may explain how the wealthiest among us then attribute all their success to their innate intelligence, abilities, and thus are rightfully permitted, even required, as they come to see it, to manage the rest of society. In the worst possible effect, these people may feel they are required to do awful things such as cleanse the society of its weakest and least successful members. For the Greater Good of course, and it would never be something they would do otherwise. A huge leap from what we see now? or does it explain the "Hurry Up and Die" attitude of some politicians and leaders?

It may be why they feel they must transfer as much societal wealth as possible to themsevles and their near equals, then aggregate and hold on to that wealth, as they are the repositories of their societies' Best and Brightest. Thus the aggressive moves to make the tax tax laws favorable to the "successful" and the desires to cut social safety nets.

This may explain how the successful in early societies felt they must be, at the very least, favored and directed by the gods or god and, at best, are directly related to said deities. Thus the "divine right" of kings, and the establishment of aristocracies to support the monarch's position (or undermine it when determined by some to be necessary. But, always, to control the masses.

In the late 20th C and early 21st C here in America, it's become a meritocracy on steroids (or testosterone, per the study). And now these meitocrats wish to ensure their progeny will be protected from competition, since they're still aware that many of them rose from lower socio-economic quintiles. Thus, the approach that schooling for the masses should focus on producing worker bees, with limited room for creativity, and also limiting upward mobility. Yes, the most outstanding will be raised up, but by them and under their control, least these bright upstarts get ideas of becoming the top meritocrat(s). And, thus, the determination to severly limit the "middle class," even destroy it.

Those who believe that doing unto others as you would have them do unto you are regarded as silly and detrimental to society. Communitarians are denigrated and relegated to poorly paying jobs. Marginalized. Not allowed to get into positions of power, if at all possible.

Just some musings on the overall effect of huge, more than could be used in several lifetimes, wealth...and its effects.

Anyone have link(s) for the study on how the wealthiest think and perceive/i> things differently from those of us non-Uberwealthy?

Also, how did all this wealth transfer happen/ It couldn't just be from GE sponsoring St. Ronnie??? I mean, the Republicans were working for less equality and lower taxation of the wealthy ever since the income tax, but, still...what happened that they succeeded?

Jimmy Carter's corporatist, deregulation bent? Nixon? Anger at the hippies and flower children? What? Use of the Shock Doctrine from the gas price increases? Then, high inflation? Is that all it took?

I was listening to a leftist on WBAI yesterday who said over and over than the left in the US is powerless because it puts ITS principles above the need to form alliances. He said that those who voted for Jill Stein or didn't vote at all were weakening the left....

Yet, without principles don't political parties just become groups of those who are interested mainly in holding power for the gain of the pols involved?

OK, out to the yard. And then to empty out all the spoiled food from frig and freezer. TEN days without power. Thanks a lot, Sandy....and JCP&L

nihil obstet's picture
Submitted by nihil obstet on

Here's a description of an experiment suggesting that the designation of leadership leads one to assume extra privileges over other people.

We're all subject to our situations in our feelings of morality. I figure the 1% care as much about us as we care about Iraqi children. Yes, we kind of regret any suffering that comes to them, but our membership in the national group that's causing their suffering doesn't make us think we're sociopaths. We believe ourselves to be honest compassionate people, and in many situations, we are. But I suspect that we all feel ourselves entitled to extra privileges.

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